Monday, November 26, 2012

Breaking into Harlequin

If you're an author who aspires to write for Harlequin, I'm sure you've been told to attend writing conferences, send your manuscript via snail mail or get an agent.  Not to knock conferences (I've enjoyed quite a few) or sending in manuscripts the old fashioned way, but neither of those things led to my being a Harlequin author.  And at this very moment, I still don't have an agent.

My journey to publication as a Harlequin author for the Love Inspired line was the result of my stumbling across the Harlequin website and the community forums.  I wish someone had told me years ago that there was a website where I could pitch my novel to Harlequin Editors and chat with Harlequin authors.   By frequenting the site I soon realized that the forums were filled with opportunities.  By entering a Speed date pitch with Love Inspired Editor, Emily Rodmell, I achieved my lifelong dream of being a Harlequin author.

Great reasons to take a look at and the community forums.

1.) The site is free.  Not many things in life are free, particularly membership on a site that helps authors get published.

2.) You have direct access to Harlequin Editors.  Every month or so the hosts of the site post pitching opportunities for the various lines.  For instance, Love Inspired may announce that they are accepting pitches for one of their lines.   There are different pitching scenarios.  You may be asked to submit a one page synopsis of your manuscript and the Editor may pick six of twenty pitches to submit a proposal.  If the Editor likes your proposal, you may be asked to submit a full manuscript.  You know what happens next.  A possible offer of publication.  Even writers who receive a pass on their manuscript are given very detailed critiques of their work and suggestions on how to improve the submission.  It's a win-win situation.  You will also be getting your work in front of an Editor rather than sitting in a slush pile.

3.) Networking with other writers who seek publication with Harlequin.  The atmosphere on the forum is very supportive and encouraging.  People are genuinely cheering you on as you strive for your dream.  When an author receives an offer of publication, the hosts of the site set up a party thread where the members can congratulate you.  When I sold "Reunited with the Sheriff" my party thread rocked.  It almost brought me to tears.

4.) Published Harlequin authors are constantly popping up on the site.  They are very encouraging and supportive as well, answering questions and giving advice critical to the romance market.  My own writing angel is Love Inspired author, Winnie Griggs.  Before the Love Inspired pitch she conducted a workshop (again, it was free) where she helped all of us with our pitches.  I truly think there is a place in Heaven reserved for Winnie. She is a good woman and knows how to pitch like no other.

5.) Opportunity...Opportunity...Opportunity...there are many opportunities for publication with Harlequin on the site.  Sometimes you might have to be patient until one of the lines post a pitch event, but the worth may well be worth the wait.

In the eight months I have been a member of the Harlequin boards I have seen dozens of writers achieve their happy ending.  Who knows? It could be you.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Living the Dream

For more years than I can count I harbored a dream of being a romance writer.  I was the kid who grew up across the street from a public library and always had my head buried in a book.  When I discovered Harlequin romances at the age of twelve, I just knew I was meant to be a romance writer.  Thankfully, I had two parents who didn't discourage me from reading tales about Alpha males and the women who loved them.  Even though my parents were both in the medical field (doctor and biologist), they never tried to change who I was.  And I was a kid who loved her Harlequin romance novels.  I can still remember some of those covers and my favorite authors...Sally Wentworth, Charlotte Lamb, Helen Bianchin, Violet Winspear.  In my mind, those women were goddesses.

I ended up attending Syracuse University, where I majored in English and met my own hero, my husband Randy.  In the back of my mind I was always thinking, "Someday I'm going to be a writer." After the birth of my first daughter I submitted a manuscript to a single publisher, who deemed it "interesting", but not quite ready for prime time.  I must admit, it was a very odd romance novel where the hero was pretending to be romancing a woman who was actually his sister.  Enough said, right?  At the time I was on maternity leave from my full time job as a Federal Investigator and not quite sure if I was ready for publication.  So, the dream was put on the back shelf for many years.

Fast forward to March of 2011 when I sent out a manuscript that had been gathering dust for years.  I sent it to two publishers.  One lost it.  The other made an offer of publication.  Yay! Rah! Hurray!!! Not so fast! Unfortunately, the "dream" was not all I thought it would be.  The publisher was verging on bankruptcy and decided to make all future books E books. This was after I signed the contract.  Not to knock E books, but it wasn't exactly what I was looking for...hoping for...and dreaming about all these years.  I so wanted to hold a book with my name on it in my hand and walk into a store and see it on the shelves.  It was a bitter pill to swallow and many times I asked myself, "Why me?

Now comes the good part.  Just as I was starting to question whether the writing dream was going to work out, I stumbled across the Harlequin forums.  Who knew there was a place where established Harlequin authors and aspiring Harlequin authors could network, talk with editors, enter pitch contests and hone their craft.  My life changed when I entered a Speed dating pitch with Love Inspired Editor, Emily Rodmell.  At the end of the pitch she asked for a proposal, which turned into a full manuscript request, which happily turned into an offer of publication.  Yay.  Rah! Hurrah!

The experience of writing "Reunited with the Sheriff" (hitting shelves June of 2013) was a great one.  The story literally poured out of me.  My editor Emily gave me so much encouragement and direction at every stage of the process.  I really felt as if she was cheering me on from her New York office.   Being able to be part of the creative process (the cover art) has been wonderful, and although edits are my least favorite thing, they weren't too bad.  I'm so excited and blessed to have been given this opportunity.  I couldn't be happier!